EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As a young boy, Mustapha Farrakhan would sometimes watch his charismatic and controversial grandfather captivate thousands of members of the Nation of Islam during speeches.
“But when you’re little, you know, sometimes you would fall asleep and stuff,” Mustapha, a 6-foot-3 guard out of the University of Virginia, recalled Monday after working out for the Nets.
Louis Farrakhan, the longtime leader of the Nation of Islam and Mustapha’s grandfather, has been linked to the assassination of Malcolm X and to numerous antisemitic comments, yet his grandson wants to emphasize the older man’s positive values.
“At the later stages of my life I’ve been able to listen to him and pick up things,” said Mustapha, who graduated from Virginia with a degree in sociology. “Just treat other people how you want to be treated. You know, freedom, justice and equality, just for everybody. It doesn’t matter what race, or whatever class or wherever you’re from. You just treat people the right way, so that’s how I life my life and that’s my motto.”
Mustapha was one of several college players to work out for the Nets Monday, along with St. John’s guard Dwight Hardy, Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough and Georgia guard Travis Leslie. New Jersey owns the No. 27 pick in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft, and the No. 36 pick in the second round.
Yet none of those players commanded the intrigue of Farrakahn, who averaged 13.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists last season.
Farrakahn himself is a Muslim but insisted his life has been “easygoing.” He said he’s not his grandfather and cannot speak for him.
“I’m not him,” he said. “So if you a question about him, you should ask him. I mean, I love him to death and I have a great religious background, but if you want to ask a question pertaining to that then you should ask him. I’m focusing on bettering myself on the basketball court and getting better every day.”
He yearns to make a name for himself, separate from his controversial grandfather, now 78.
“I know by me coming to workouts like this or showcasing my abilities, that it’s a little more than just my last name out there,” he said. “So I just continue to work.”
A former All-State player in his native Illinois, Farrakhan didn’t play much in his first two seasons at Virginia and said he’s still developing his game.
“My first two years [in college] I really didn’t get a lot of opportunities, for whatever reason,” he said. “And then really just this past year, I’ve gotten the opportunity to really play college basketball. So last year was really my first year of playing basketball on a consistent basis. I played well this year, I scored more points than I did in all three years and all my statistics went up.”
Nets general manager Billy King said of Farrakhan: “I was impressed with him, I really was. He competed but I like his athletic ability.”
Farrakhan has worked out for Utah, Charlotte, Milwaukee, New York, Chicago and New Jersey. He is not projected by DraftExpress.com to be chosen in Thursday’s Draft and said he’s uncertain what he will do if he isn’t.
“I just never wanted to let my dream go down the drain so I just continued to work hard,” he said, “and here I am today just working out.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.